We all know the modern customer journey is longer and more complicated than ever before. However, new research from Condé Nast shows that most customers make brand decisions well before they even realize they’re on a journey.

Along with research firm Tapestry, Condé Nast recently surveyed 4,500 consumers to learn more about their paths to purchase. One key finding is that 79% already make purchase decisions in what Condé Nast calls the “pre-search” phase that involves regular media consumption driving brand affinity and favorability.

“By the time people have started searching for a product, they’ve already decided what to buy,” says Pamela Drucker Mann, Condé Nast’s Chief Revenue and Marketing Officer. “There is tremendous opportunity to influence consumers pre-search that many marketers aren’t taking full advantage of.”

The Missed Opportunity

Ads, editorial content, sponsored posts, Instagram influencers: There are countless ways for brands to get in front of consumers. That content does influence people’s purchase decisions, though not necessarily in the ways that brands think it does.

Sponsored content should be less about the sale and more about the story. Most consumers make brand decisions very early in the customer journey. What sets your brand apart is what sticks with people when they’re making purchase decisions.

Before buying something, 79% of consumers have a short list of brands they’d consider. Condé Nast also found that 52% of the time, the customer journey involves choosing between two finalists. And 53% of consumers end up buying from the initially-considered brand.

Condé Nast titles

“For most consumers, a purchase decision is really about justifying the idea they had right at the start,” says Kevin Thompson, Joint MD at Tapestry Research. “If you get into the consumer’s mind from the very beginning, you are much more likely to be the one they search for, explore and choose in the end.”

It also helps to understand which types of branded content influence purchase decisions. For beauty products, the “trigger” for 80% of consumers is informative content, regardless of the platform. Ads are the number one catalyst for fashion brands and the number two in tech. The need for a product upgrade still drives the bulk of tech purchases.

Google, Facebook… and Condé Nast

Since most people predetermine the brands they buy, the pre-search period gives brands the opportunity to build trust and influence ahead of the purchase. While many publishers struggle with loyalty and retention, Condé Nast’s digital subscriber base keeps growing, reaching a record-breaking 113 million consumers this past fall. With all that goodwill from readers, 75% of the survey respondents trust products recommended by Condé Nast’s 21 titles. And what’s more, the publisher is also 26% more likely to drive purchase intent than Google and Facebook.

And it’s even higher on a macro level, for individual titles. Regarding fashion, 92% of consumers trust recommendations from Glamour, GQ and Vogue. In the beauty space, 90% of respondents trust advice from Glamour and Allure.

Compared with the tech giants, Allure is 67% more likely than Google to inspire beauty product purchases. GQ, Vogue and Vanity Fair drive more clothes shopping than Facebook. And most eye-opening of all: Wired is 63% more likely to catalyze a tech purchase than Facebook.


Learn more about how you can utilize personalized web content to provide a better customer journey for your customers.